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Book Reviews

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I was always interested in reading the 1968 novel by Philip K. Dick. I’ve tried many, many times. And when I finally got the audiobook version, I was really excited, thinking that having someone narrate this to me one the way to and from work will actually get me long enough in the novel to get me interested.

Boy, was I wrong. The narrator was the same guy who did Atlas Shrugged and I couldn’t get over the voice for the longest of times.
Then, the subject at hand, did not interest me in the least.
I love sci-fi BUT. Not this.

The Story

The Rosen Association manufactures the androids on the colony of Mars, but certain androids violently rebel and escape to the underpopulated Earth where they hope to remain undetected. Despite their realistic appearance and advanced intellect, androids are not treated as equals to humans. They are prohibited from doing many things, including emigrating from the colonies to Earth. Therefore, American and Soviet police departments remain vigilant, keeping officers on duty to track and “retire” fugitive androids. Similar to the androids, humans with mental disabilities, psychological disorders, or genetic defects, called “specials”, are also treated as sub-human; they are forced to remain on Earth and are prohibited from traveling to the colonies.

Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Department, is assigned to “retire” (kill) six androids of the new and highly intelligent Nexus-6 model which have recently escaped from Mars and traveled to Earth.

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Deckard buys his wife Iran an authentic Nubian goat with the bounty money.

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His supervisor then insists that he visit an abandoned apartment building, where the three remaining android fugitives are assumed to be hiding. Experiencing a vision of the prophet-like Mercer confusingly telling him to proceed, despite the immorality of the mission, Deckard calls on Rachael Rosen again, since her knowledge of android psychology may aid his investigation.

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“I like her; I could watch her the rest of my life. She has breasts that smile.”

Rachael wants him to abandon the case. She reveals that one of the fugitive androids is the same exact model as herself, meaning that he will have to shoot down an android that looks just like her. Rachael coaxes Deckard into sex, after which they confess their love for one another. However, she reveals she has slept with many bounty hunters, having been programmed to do so in order to dissuade them from their missions. He threatens to kill her, but holds back at the last moment. He leaves for the abandoned apartment building.

Meanwhile, the three remaining Nexus-6 android fugitives plan how they can outwit Deckard. The building’s only other inhabitant, John R. Isidore, a radioactively damaged and intellectually below-average human, attempts to befriend them, but is shocked when they callously torture and mutilate a rare spider he’s found.

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They all watch a television program which presents definitive evidence that the entire theology of Mercerism is a hoax. Deckard enters the building, experiencing strange, supernatural premonitions of Mercer notifying him of an ambush. Since they attack him first, Deckard is legally justified as he shoots down all three androids without testing them beforehand.

Isidore is devastated, and Deckard is soon rewarded for a record number of Nexus-6 kills in a single day. When Deckard returns home, he finds Iran grieving because Rachael Rosen arrived while he was gone and killed their goat.

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Deckard goes to an uninhabited, obliterated region of Oregon to reflect. He climbs a hill and is hit by falling rocks, and realizes this is an experience eerily similar to Mercer’s martyrdom.

He stumbles abruptly upon what he thinks is a real toad (an animal thought to be extinct) but, when he returns home with it, his wife discovers it is just a robot.

Phew. That was a mess.

I just didn’t like this book. The narrator was just so whiny. I don’t feel like the metaphysical questions that the book posed were brought to the forefront enough, and I never personally felt challenged to review my personal definition of humanity, which is what I think Dick wanted. I felt like there was a good idea for a story in here but it was buried in pseudo-religions that were not fully realized within the context of the story.

This was a huge meandering cluster of a story. The preoccupation with animals baffles me–and for how little it had to do with the story overall. And except for maybe Isidore, all the characters in general were extremely flat, with close to no personality traits. I couldn’t tell you anything about Deckard, except that he really wanted a goat.

1/5